Monday, 30 January 2017

A letter to the beyond

Dear Ajja,

I could barely see the “PUSH” label on the door knob before me.  My thoughts had raced back to the last time I had been there.  It was with you.  Your new watch strap was loose and it was annoying you. Time was important.  It hardly passed now.  You looked at your watch every now and then to see how much had elapsed.  You were happy with your new watch.  But it did not sit firmly on your wrist and kept slipping.  So we had gone to the showroom to fix it.  You were uncertain it could be fixed.  “Do they do that?  Very good!” We had gone arm in arm.  You didn’t like using the walking stick, a sign of weakness and dependency which you hated. 
We gave your watch at the counter and the shopkeeper checked your wrist and measured the links that need to be cut off from the strap.  And to your surprise your watch was returned in no time fitting you perfectly.  You shook hands with the guy, “It fits perfectly now.  So nice of you to do it!  Thank you very much.  It was very loose.  It is perfect now. Thank you”, you said again as we walked out.  You were so excited.  You were thanking me now.  “If it weren’t for you I had to continue wearing the loose watch.  It is proper now.  I didn’t think they would fix it.  But he did it for us.  God’s grace! Thank you.  You will help me out if there is any more trouble with this? I know you will! Thank you.” You said it repeatedly all along the way back home and again at home that evening every time you beamingly looked at your newly fixed watch.

That was the state of affairs.  You were totally a child.  Everything surprised you like it was the first time you ever saw it.  Small things made you extremely happy.  “What is this? I never saw it before?”, “That was so good, I had it for the first time!”, you had said when you ate ice cream.  You looked at everything with a childish curiosity and small things fascinated you and made you joyful. 
It has been a year since you left us. How time flies! How life goes on in spite of what happens!  But the void remains. Your absence is strongly felt.  It feels so strange that you, who had been such an important part of our lives, are not among us.

My memories go back to when you took me out as a kid.  Your single finger I could grip fully with my small hand as you walked me out.  You picked us up from school every evening by Luna.  How you always wanted everyone to be together.  You would call me to come over as soon as my exams got over until the day the school reopened.  You didn’t want me to waste even a single day of my vacation being away from you.  You made us read the Vishnu sahasranaam and chant Ram naam.  Your habit of chanting ram naam never stopped. Your fingers moved subconsciously over the beads of the rosary as you chanted “Sri Ram jaya Ram jaya jaya Ram” involuntarily till your last breath.  You wanted us to do things on time even if it was the vacation.  “Finish all your work first then you can be as you like freely for the rest of the day”.  You always wanted discipline. 

How it all changed before we knew it.  How you suddenly got old after you had your first attack of stroke.  Going out on your own got dangerous.  You had repeated accidents but you insisted going anyway.  How you very getting hurt repeatedly but you were still positive and optimistic that what has to happen will happen and nothing can stop it.  We were so scared for you.  We forced you to stay home.  How restless you got to be at home, being the active person that you were.  How you were forgetting things. But you never worried.  You never told us about your pains.  You bore it all with a smile.  You tried to find something to do even while at home.  It was so hard to pass the time. 
The day you fell and hurt your back, was the blow.  You couldn’t walk again.  You were forced to bed.  Days got difficult for you and us too.  It was hard to see you suffer, to see you struggle through routine works.  How it embarrassed you to depend and make someone else do your work.  You thanked profusely for every little errand done for you.  You were apologetic that others had to do your work and you explained your situation which we all understood. “I am sorry ma, I don’t mean to trouble you. I am old you see, it is beyond my control”, you explained with that desperate helpless look in your eyes.  You were unhappy, but you always smiled.  You said it is God’s grace.  You greeted every one with folded hands even when you did not recognize any one.  It was heart wrenching to see you small and lean in your bed.  I had never known you to be weak and ill.  You had always seemed this strong head of the family, invincible!  You had a childish endearing smile.  The twinkle in your eyes shined so bright that it warmed many a hearts.  You thanked the nurses and doctors every time they came to check you.  You were grateful that they took such good care of you and were trying to treat you.

We had hoped to bring you home, to pamper you, to love you more.  We knew it was coming.  We knew it was inevitable.  Did you know it too? Did you know the time had come? Nothing could prepare us when you left us.  The person whom I admired, respected and loved the most was suddenly gone.  A strange emptiness and longing tugs at my heart even today every time I think of you.  Yes, we moved on.  But I still hold on to your memories tightly lest I should lose them too.  The way you made me feel.  The happiness you gave me.  How childlike you had become!  Your positive spirit throughout your life, your principles, unwavering disciplined life set an example to live by.  Several people told of your good deeds and praised you.  They told us how you had helped so many people we knew nothing about.  Even in death you were this awe inspiring person.  “I lost my gem”, grandma said when you were gone. 


Even now when I cook I remember how you appreciated and thanked me for every meal, every cup of coffee.  How you cherished and loved food! “It is first class! Very good! Thank you.”, you always said.  You have no idea how much I loved cooking for you and how motivating you have always been.  How I wish I could do it again for you.  I miss how you called me “Gundamma” in a sing-song voice.  I wish I could hear it again.  I want you to tell me “very good”.  If only I could hear it again.  Anything!  You had first taught me the joy of letter writing as a kid.  I am writing to you again now.  Wherever you are, I wish you could see this.  I wish I could see you.  I wish I could tell you how much I miss you.  May be I never told you how much I love you!  If only I could tell you now.

Your only,
Gundamma

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Soliloquies by the sea





By the shore I like to stand
My feet buried in slipping sand
The frothy droplets tickle my toes
With white outlines as it goes.

By this shore I like to listen
To the waters that glow and glisten
The roaring waves tell me tales
And songs of glory in gushing gales.

By this shore I like to walk
Along the waves that chase and mock,
Linking hands with the wind
Sandy footprints trailing behind.

By this shore I like to feel
My deepest wounds repair and heal
As sounds of sea weave and swerve
Like massaging fingers through every nerve.

By this shore I feel serene
In what was and has always been
The wise old sea, in its vast expanse
I stand humbled, lost in trance.


- Nivedita


Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Life goes on. . .



Struck by a raging storm,
Rattled by the fury of winds,
You panic and lose form
As it tests you and grinds,
But life goes on.

The leaves fall off,
And flowers wither away.
The times seem tough,
You lose balance and sway,
But life goes on.

Dear ones die or depart,
While some leave in wrath.
It breaks down your heart,
And you lose all your faith,
But life goes on.

You reach a dead-end,
You find no way out.
You crease, fold and bend,
You cry and you shout,
But life goes on.

But broken things can mend,
Joy, you can newly amass.
You think it's the end,
But this too shall pass,
Because, life goes on.

Things that brought sorrow,
Shall soon be things bygone
There is hope in tomorrow,
After night comes the dawn
And life simply goes on!


-Nivedita

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupѐry : A Book Review

“Becoming an adult is probably the dumbest thing you could ever do!”


As a child, you cannot wait to grow up and be like “them adults”.  Growing up seems to mean, to be independent, be able to make decisions on your own and do everything on your own.  It is to be important and happy and free.  How is that working out for you?

Children always have a simpler if not better understanding of things.  They see beauty and get fascinated by everything they see around them.  They have deep imaginations.  The matters of consequence are different to a child.  But as they grow, they lose this sense.  Priorities change, and though you think you know everything, you most often don't have a clue of where you are headed and what you want.

The Little Prince is a dedication to all grown-ups who were once children, who cannot seem to remember how it is to be a child any more.  It is a nostalgia for childhood.  They find a child’s ideas to be silly.  They do not see things as children do.

The little prince is a little boy from a strange planet tells you what is important. What are the real matters of consequence?  He tells us the little secrets of life in simple terms.  Children always understand easily.  Grown-ups are a little slow in grasping things, so you need to go down to their level of understanding.

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
What we hold and see and think are important are not really important.  But what is actually important can only be felt and not seen.

So he tells us about the different kinds of people there are and how they are all wasting time either thinking about themselves or about the things that are not important.  He makes several observations about life, nature and people.  He feels that grown-ups are extraordinarily strange.

“It is the time you have lost that makes your rose so important.”  You spend time over something or with someone, and the more time you spend, the more important it becomes to you.

“You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.”

I dedicate this book to all the grown-ups I know.

-Nivedita

Monday, 30 November 2015

The man who has no inner-life is a slave to his surroundings. – Henri Frederic Amiel

“Watch your thoughts; for they become words.
Watch your words; for they become actions.
Watch your actions; for they become habits.
Watch your habits; for they become character.
Watch your character; for it becomes your destiny.”


Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson, Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, supermarket magnate Frank Outlaw, spiritual teacher Gautama Buddha, and the father of Margaret Thatcher have all been credited with versions of the above quote. It clearly and analytically infers to how our thoughts ultimately lead to our destiny. The thoughts formulate from a realm inside each of us, and that realm is the inner-life of a person.




What is inner-life?

There are two aspects in the life of a person - the Outer life and the Inner life. The outer life is that with which you see, listen, observe and process everything around you.  Inner life is that which helps you decide.  It is that voice that tells you what to do and what not to do.  It is that which defines who you are and who you will be.  It is that nag you feel when you know you have done wrong.  It is that which encourages you to help a needy person.  It is that gut feeling which makes you feel, “This is it!”.  It is the distinguishing line between man and animal.

According to The Alchemy of Happiness by Hazrat Inayat Khan, to be without inner life is like being without an arm or a leg or an eye or an ear.  It is a part of one’s being and the purest form of knowledge.  However intellectual or learned a person may be, his mind will never be clear, if his knowledge is based only upon his outer surroundings.  The outer life is subject to change and destruction.  Such wisdom has limitations.  Any amount of material wealth and knowledge is useless to a man if he has no inner life.  The knowledge of inner life is the essence of life.  It is like nutrition to the soul as it nourishes it and helps it grow.  Just like all the beauty products of the world are in vain without the inner health of the body, that is, without right food to nourish the body, the knowledge of outer life is pointless without the knowledge of inner life and self.

The man who has no inner-life is a slave to his surroundings

This simple line is what the businessmen and the advertising companies take advantage of.  How else can anyone successfully sell to you what you do not really need?  They create the needs that you did not know existed.  They tell you what you have is not good enough and that they have better to offer you, and you are convinced into buying it. 

Your family, friends, the society and the whole world around you are influencing you.  Teenagers and youth are unable to think or decide on their own and give in to peer-pressure.  The pressure of society compel you into hurried thoughtless decisions.  Like man makes animal as his slave to get his work done, man becomes a slave to his surroundings with no self thinking. He loses control over his self.
“He who knows not and knows not he knows not: he is a fool - shun him. He who knows not and knows he knows not: he is simple - teach him. He who knows and knows not he knows: he is asleep - wake him. He who knows and knows he knows: he is wise - follow him.”- Confucius

He who knows and is conscious of his knowledge, has a strong inner-life.  He who has knowledge and is not aware of his abilities needs to be awakened regarding it.  He who does not know but knows of his ignorance can be taught.  But he who does not know anything and is unaware of his ignorance, is foolish and nothing can become of him.

Mastering inner-life





All that we are is the result of what we have thought – Buddha.

Rhonda Byrne in her book, The Secret, teaches us through different philosophers, meta-physicians, psychologists and visionaries, how the inner life is what makes us who we are.  With the right choice of thoughts, we can carve ourselves and we become the masterpiece of our own lives.  The same thoughts have the power of healing, and the power to fulfill your dreams.  When the voice and the vision on the inside become more profound and more clear and louder than the opinions on the outside, one can master his life.   Byrne claims it to be the ultimate Secret - the answer to all that has been, all that is, and all that will ever be.

My 80-year-old grandmother was operated on for hip-fracture.  The doctors had not guaranteed 100% success owing to her age and the uncertainty of the aged body to cooperate to treatment.  Not only did she recover, but with her spirit and enthusiasm, she started walking a month before the doctor had suggested.  This could only happen because of her will and positivity. 

The most important and most beautiful words are those which you speak to yourself.  When you are alone, you talk with a person within you.  Look into the mirror and fall in love with the person you see.



Enjoy your own company, because if you don’t, why would anyone else? Treat yourself how you wish others to treat you and spend time with yourself.  In the midst of all this, you will learn about yourself and grow.  Develop the attitude of gratitude and visualize to materialize.  You will figure out what inspires you, you will curate your own dreams, your own beliefs, your own stunning clarity.  You connect with your own self.  Regardless of what has happened to you in your life, regardless of how young or old you think you might be, the moment you begin to think properly, there is a power within you that is greater than the world.  It will feed you, it will clothe you, it will guide you, protect you, direct you and sustain your very existence.

-Nivedita

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Why so Serious?


Rain drops on roses and whiskers on kittens,
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens,
Brown paper packages tied up with strings,
These are a few of my favourite things.

These are the simple things of which Frauline Maria sings about to the von Trapp children to cheer them up (in the movie Sound of Music).  It is her way of telling them to find happiness in the little things in your daily life when you are sad.  We always fail to notice these little things which actually make us feel good.  People walk around tight lipped and knitted brows, deep in thought.  Every person is sad, angry or worried about something.  Everyone is stressed out!

As J.K. Rowling puts it allegorically in her Harry Potter books, the creatures called dementors. Dementors are among the foulest creatures that walk this earth. They infest the darkest, filthiest places, they glory in decay and despair, and they drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them. Get too near a Dementor and every good feeling; every happy memory will be sucked out of you. If it can, the Dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself - soulless and evil. You will be left with nothing but the worst experiences of your life.  They can be repelled by the spell Expecto patronum produced by thinking happy thoughts.  A patronus is produced which shields you and keeps the dementors at bay.

We all have faced the dementor in our lives.  It makes us sad, gets us immobilized and leaves us distraught.  That dementor in muggle(non-magical people) world is called DEPRESSION.  It plagues more people than you think.  Irrespective of where you are from, what religion you belong or whether you are rich, poor, male, female, a celebrity or an ordinary person.  Every other person has faced it at some point or the other in life.  While some are able to fend off this deadly dementor, some fall prey.  But people are not really open to talking about it.  They are embarrassed to say they are sad and unable to deal with it mostly because it is not acceptable for a person to be sad!  The reasons may seem silly.


“Laugh, and the world laughs with you. Cry and you cry alone.”  A hungry man is given food, a thirsty man is given water, and a sick man is given medicine, but a sad man is rebuked for being sad.  It is easier to say I have a fever than to say I am depressed. If you came complaining of fever, what if I told you, “There are people suffering from TB, diabetes and cancer and you worry about a silly fever? Get real! Move on! ”.  Shall we ignore it? How would you feel? What we do is treat the fever till you recover.   Be it bacteria or the virus or the weather that got you down, you accept that you are ill and take treatment.

Likewise, a depressed persons need treatment till they feel better.  They need to be nursed.  More often than not, the only nursing a depressed person needs is to be loved, to be told that who they are makes a difference.  The patience, support and care of a loved one do great healing.  So be it a failed relationship, failure in exams, not fairing as good as your friends or family problems, that got you depressed, it is necessary that you be treated.

More than anything they need to be accepted and validated for the way they feel.  They need to realize that it is all right to feel that way at times, however it is not the ultimate feeling.  Rebukes like, “Why do you think like that?  How can you feel so ungrateful? Can’t you see the bright side? Get over it already!”, may not be accepted in the right spirit by every depressed person.  Maybe the brighter side needs to be shown and made felt by them in this phase, in order to come out of it.
Poor relationships, peer pressure, lack of friends and loneliness and the inability to handle such pressures may be the common causative factors of depression in youngsters today.  Not everyone is emotionally immune!  They do not consider sharing with parents for the sole reason that they do not feel understood.  They cannot be blamed for it.  Most parents are not really helping with the kid-these-days attitude.  They blame the generations of today for knowing no hardships, growing up in luxury and not being tolerant to change, problems and when things do not work the way they expected.  You cannot blame the parents either.  They have seen their share of hard times and survived through it just fine and they feel the youngsters have everything they could ask for, but still complain.  While they may be right, voicing it out to depressed young minds would only push them away from them and close them up into a shell.  This gap in communication creates a deadlock to the depressed person who then looks for alternative means to relief, and these means may not always be helpful.

Healing depression

“Breathe. You’re going to be okay.  Breathe and remember that you have been in this place before.  You’ve been this uncomfortable and anxious and scared, and you have survived.  Breathe and know that you can survive this too.  These feelings can’t break you and they will pass.  Maybe not immediately, but sometime soon, they are going to fade and when they do, you’ll look back at this moment and laugh for having doubted your resilience.  I know it feels unbearable right now, but keep breathing again and again.  This will pass and I promise it will pass.”
-          - Daniell Koepke


It is simple to note that depression is just a state of mind just like any other feeling, say happiness or anger.  But allowing it to overpower you can worsen it.  It is important to remind oneself that it is temporary and that mind has the power to resist it.  It is perfectly normal to feel that way at times, and you need to accept that first, rather than being sad about being sad.  It is okay to cry too.  Meet a close friend and vent out or write about it, but get it all out.  And once that is done, one has to bring himself/herself to resist sad thoughts and find a means of distraction.  You may feel the urge to lie and obsess our your sorrows.  But you need to make gradual attempts to keep away from those things that make you sad, be it thoughts, things or people.  Despite the fact that you lose absolute interest in your hobbies, likes and everything else, you need to find those things that make you happy.  Say music, it always lifts your spirits. Watch cute and happy videos of animals and babies. Watch your favourite movies or sitcoms.  Try to engage in a hobby.  Go for a walk or workout.  Keep your mind busy with other things. 

Eating chocolate after a dementor attack always makes you feel better!  Think happy and say Expecto patronum!


When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I am feeling sad,
I simply remember my favourite things, and then I don’t feel, so bad!

-Nivedita

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Joy




I sit by the beach.  The summer Sun shines on bright as ever. But the scorch of the day is wearing out and he shows hints of setting.  The water glistens like gold with sparkling diamonds embedded within, along the horizon. It looks like a huge tiara with the scintillating Sun at the crown.  The waves slap the sand, chasing after one another. They linger about for a few seconds before they back out with the mocking froth spreading out like the frilled train of a bride’s white gown, dragging along with it a layer of sand.



The wind is harsh whipping at my face, blowing around my hair.  It has a saline scent.  I close my eyes accepting the wind pushing against me, but it is suddenly gentle, hugging me.
I walk to the edge of the water.  The waves race to meet me washing my feet.  The smooth sand slipping between my toes sinks slowly, rooting my feet to the spot.

I feel at peace. The people around me are a blur. The sounds of children splashing at each other in the water sounds muffled as I lose myself in the arms of nature.
It is pure joy. There is joy in every little thing. Everyone wants to be happy.  But where can you find happiness?  In the chaotic competitive world of today, we are weighed down with pressures of work.  We hear our parents and grandparents talk about the ‘good old days’ when they were ‘happy’ and ‘content’.  

There is extravagance of everything, and we still say, ‘aur dikhao’.  We get bored easily and we want more.  We strive hard to make our lives better and easier but happiness and contentment elude us.  In our efforts to find ‘bigger’ joy, we fail to notice the little pleasures around us.  

So what do I do when Sadness takes over my console of emotions? (Besides collapsing down obsessing over my grief for hours).  Diverting the mind to feel happy can be hard. 

The monotonous routines of life always rake up turmoil inside me.  The raging storm in my mind wants me to break away and escape.  I take refuge in Nature and I was never disappointed.  The sight of night sky when a star winks at you, or the birds hopping about in their business, or the setting Sun, the expanse of the sea and the embrace of the wind brings in tranquillity.  I breathe in deep feeling my lungs expand. I smile involuntarily.


The Sun blushing red is now low, gliding down stealthily at the horizon spilling colours all over the sky as it disappears.  The traces of clouds absorb the colours reflecting a yellowish glow.  I soak in the twilight.

-Nivedita